Valorising the market, discounting the state: Tracing the persistent support from development actors for businesses to deliver energy access in the Global South

Authors: Jonathan Balls*, University of Melbourne
Topics: Development, Energy
Keywords: development, energy access, solar, cookstoves, India, energy geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Capitol Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines how a valorisation of market-based initiatives for the promotion of energy access in the Global South coupled with a disavowal of state funding has persisted even as market-based initiatives in practice remain dependent upon non-market subsidies. Over the last two decades development funders have turned away from aid and embraced using funds to promote economic growth and market-based initiatives. At the same time, prompted by the UNs Millennium Development Goals and SE4All initiative, there has been an international development focus on extending energy access in the Global South. Many market-based initiatives to deliver energy to low-income households have been started, most notably for cookstoves and solar products. Numerous businesses and social enterprises now operate throughout the Global South. A narrative of market-based initiatives being primed to deliver energy to millions has become firmly established and is told in contrast to a reported failure of government and NGO efforts. In this paper, we look at how since the 1990s solar and cookstove businesses in India have been embraced as actors delivering energy access in rural India. We then show how they have remained reliant upon various forms of non-market funding, have failed when funding is withdrawn, and have struggled to scale-up and become commercially self-sustaining. In conclusion, we argue that a valorisation of market-based initiatives coupled with a reluctance to accept a foregrounded role for state funding limits the ability of the development sector to support substantive gains on energy access.

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